Winner of the Malstrom Award of the League of Snohomish County Historical Organizations
In 1968, a time of turbulence and countercultural movements, a one-time television salesman named Paul Erdmann changed his name to Love Israel and started a controversial religious commune in Seattle's middle-class Queen Anne Hill neighborhood. He quickly gathered a following and they too adopted the Israel surname, along with biblical or virtuous first names such as Honesty, Courage, and Strength. The burgeoning Love Israel Family lived a communal lifestyle centered on meditation and the philosophy that all persons were one and life was eternal. They flourished for more than a decade, owning houses and operating businesses on the Hill, although rumors of drug use, control of members, and unconventional sexual arrangements dogged them.
By 1984, perceptions among many followers that some Family members - especially Love Israel himself - had become more equal than others led to a bitter breakup in which two-thirds of the members defected. The remaining faithful, about a hundred strong, resettled on a ranch the Family retained near the town of Arlington, Washington, north of Seattle. There they recouped and adapted, with apparent social and economic success, for two more decades.
In The Love Israel Family, Charles LeWarne tells the compelling story of this group of idealistic seekers whose quest for a communal life grounded in love, service, and obedience to a charismatic leader foundered when that leader's power distanced him from his followers. LeWarne followed the Family for years, attending its celebrations and interviewing the faithful and the disaffected alike. He tells the Family's story with both sympathy and balance, describing daily life in the urban and later the rural communes and explaining the Family's deeply felt spiritual beliefs. The Love Israel Family is an important chapter in the history of communal experiments in the United States.
|Publisher:||University of Washington Press|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Charles P. LeWarne is the author of Utopias on Puget Sound, 1885-1915 and Washington State, a text used in many regional school districts. He is coauthor of Washington: A Centennial History.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Author's Note
THE BEGINNINGS1 The Communal Thread in the United States2 Paul Erdmann Becomes Love Israel
THE URBANE COMMUNE3 Living Together 4 The Spiritual Focus 5 A Community in the Greater Community 6 Foes and Friends in the World Beyond7 Stretching Outward
THE BREAKUP8 Flies in the Ointment 9 Breaking Up Is Hard To Do 10 Picking Up the Pieces
THE RURAL COMMUNE11 Entrepreneurial Ventures 12 The People and Their Lives 13 Unraveling toward Bankruptcy Epilogue Afterword by Serious Israel
AppendixesNotesReferences CitedIndex of NamesGeneral Index
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Love Israel Family is an excellent work of Seattle local history, focusing on a sixties-era Christian commune that has (more-or-less) survived into the twenty-first century. Charles LeWarne manages to keep even the drier parts of the story interesting as he traces the cultural and economic transformation of this "intentional community" from a naive group of urban hippies to a rural collective, and even beyond into the suburbs of Seattle where the group leaders now make their home. What is most interesting about this story is the role of debt financing in the fortunes of The Love Israel Family - the various crises that occur over the lifetime of the group are (in LeWarne's telling) more a result of poor management of debts than anything else. This angle makes the book something more than expected, as the author skillfully explores the murky intersection of the Family's spiritual goals with the economic reality of surviving in a society powered by hard assets. Given that the book has been published in the middle of a recession, The Love Israel Family is as much a reflection on contemporary capitalism as it is a work of modern history, and the book is all the better for that extra layer of interest.